Annette Gallardo, the chef and owner of South Bay School of Cooking has been dishing up culinary adventures for 15 years, eight of them in her present location in Redondo Beach.
She offers classes primarily for adults and teens, but in the summer she holds a children’s cooking camp, and adds a few kid’s classes during the holiday season, too.
“Some of our most popular classes right now are modeled after the Great British Baking show. It engages all sorts of unique fun baking recipes, and there is a whole following that watches that show on PBS, so that’s been really popular for us,” Gallardo said.
“Our Fabulous Fish class is extremely popular, too, because people are trying to eat more fish and less red meat and such. The knife skills class is also a draw, because people can get frustrated with cutting and chopping, and want to know how to do that.”
During the holiday season, aspiring chefs throng to her tamale and candy making classes, too.
“We usually have ten to twelve students, although occasionally we offer a sushi class that can accommodate 14 students because they’re not actually cooking,” she explains.
Gallardo came to the South Bay in the late 80s, working as pastry chef at the then-Radisson Hotel in Manhattan Beach. She’s seen a much greater interest arise in terms of culinary inventiveness and dining experiences in that time.
And, Gallardo has noted a number of substantial changes in her students’ interests since starting her school.
“Over the past three years, people seem to be much more interested in a lot of different ethnic cuisines, and we do Korean and Peruvian now, something that may be five or six years ago I couldn’t sell much of, people are looking for that. I would say The Food Network and other television shows that introduce this cuisine have a lot to do with that.”
She foresees only incremental changes to her program in the future.
“If we see something that’s not working well, then we look for something new. We do some shorter time-frame classes now, 90 minute classes versus two or 2.5 hour classes, and we are looking at some offerings like Eat the Veggie Rainbow and Whole Grains coming up. We always try to incorporate things that people are trying to add to their lifestyles or use to change their diet.”
Starting in January, Gallardo will be running her usual five to six classes per week, with most held in the evenings and Saturday morning. Baking—popular for the holidays—will be offered less frequently.
“One thing I want to stress is that we are not a culinary school; some people think we are and tend to shy away. Our classes are designed for the home cook, we’re open to the public, and we offer classes that allow people to do what they learned here at home, on their own appliances and with their own cookware.”
She adds “The classes are fun, informative and entertaining—sometimes I even sing or juggle,” she laughs.
“In my Dining with Dickens Christmas cooking spectacular, six years ago I just started singing carols. Now that is a part of the class, it’s built in before the dessert is served.”
Gallardo professes that she’d love to do more classes that are themed, a structure that she says hasn’t yet blossomed in the South Bay.
“I would love to do more of that, and introduce concepts such as dining with other famous authors, or a certain period of time where food was created in a certain way.”
Whatever Gallardo’s cooking up for future classes, the menu is sure to include the ingredient that many of her students like best: fun.
South Bay School of Cooking is located at 1951 Artesia Blvd. in Redondo Beach.
For more information, visit southbayschoolofcooking.com or call (310) 350-3772.